A Shock to the System, a pic about an under-appreciated ad man who sets out to exterminate everyone who serves as a roadblock on his path to success, is a fun watch, but little else. The comedy is generally to my taste–pitch-black. Michael Caine is, honestly, in one of his best five roles of all time. Swoosie Kurtz, as his domineering wife, and Elizabeth McGovern, as a beauty at the ad agency where he works, are both fine. Peter Reigert, as the youn’in whose destined to get the promotion Caine’s character deserves and yearns for, is quite funny. So what’s missing?
After a second viewing, I’m certain that the script just doesn’t hold together. There are brilliant scenes of dark comedy followed by pedestrian sequences of cat-and-mouse police games. The ending, far too predictable, isn’t nearly as over-the-top as it should be.
I do know one thing, though: nothing that goes wrong is Michael Caine’s fault.